The many moods of my vintage linoleum floor (how to achieve a uniform finish)

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Seattleranch

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Jul 5, 2023
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4
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Seattle
Hi All. I have vintage linoleum in my kitchen (likely at least 40-50 years old, possibly original to 1954). I’ve attempted to clean the floor using vinegar, baking soda and dish soap, but the results have been uneven. While some parts of the floor yielded decades of wax, others seem to be dissolving and/or unresponsive to cleaning (w/scrubbing).

Image 1 shows an area where a brownish residue is clouding the floors. I assume this is old wax, but I did notice that some colored elements of the floor seemed to be running (dissolving?). Image 2 shows an area that is mildly discolored but retaining it’s finish, seemingly unresponsive to cleaning.

I’m looking for recommendations that would bring the floor to an even-looking finish. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m reluctant to do much more vigorous scrubbing or cleaning since 1) it seems to be damaging the floor and, 2) the linoleum likely has asbestos.

Thoughts? Apply a few layers of Armstrong Shinekeeper and hope for the best? Strip it with an ammonia solution? Note that volumes of brown gunk have already been removed. Any input greatly appreciated.
 

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Strip and Wax...

Find a janitorial supply place (not Home Depot). Pick up some floor stripper and wax. Don't cheap out on the wax. Get non slip. Stripper gets mixed with water. Flood the floor with it. Follow directions. Be careful, stuff gets slippery when the wax dissolves. Wear rubber boots if ya got um. Scrub well. If you don't want to rent a machine a scrub brush on a stick will work for a small area. If you have a wet/dry vac vacuum up the slurry, if not you can just mop it up. Rag mop, not a little sponge mop. Yoou'll need a bucket with a ringer. Don't let that stuff dry. If it's a large area do it in sections. Then continue to mop with a clean mop head and clean water a few times. Clean the mop and change the water each time. Repeat if necessary.... Apply wax, at least a few coats allowing it to dry in between coats.

If the linoleum can't withstand the scrubbing it's time for a new floor.... :cool:
 
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If there's acrylic wax on there, it doesn't strip easy. The wax is harder than the linoleum.
I'd call Armstrong and Marmoleums tech lines and ask them what NOT to use to clean or strip the floor.
 
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Thanks to both for very useful feedback. I did strip the floor, giving it a nice clean and even color. After stripping, I added Armstrong Shinekeeper. Unfortunately, after several coats, the gloss on the floor looks uneven in indirect natural light (see picture). Should I add more Shinekeeper? Buff? Something else? I'd like to fix the uneven gloss if possible, but I'm worried about gumming up the floor by applying too much finish.
 

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Is your floor uneven in those areas. If that’s the original Lino then I’m guessing so and the light is reflecting off of the uneven floor and highlighting the unevenness. Doesn’t have to be all that much to see an unflat floor.
 
Yes, I suspect the uneven floor is contributing to the problem. As I've added new coats of Shinekeeper, the high-gloss areas have expanded. But not by a huge amount. Anything I can do to mitigate this problem? Again, worried about overloading the floor w/ finish.
 
Is your floor uneven in those areas. If that’s the original Lino then I’m guessing so and the light is reflecting off of the uneven floor and highlighting the unevenness. Doesn’t have to be all that much to see an unflat floor.
Yes and perhaps causing an uneven application of the wax. More in the low spots less on the high spots.

Also I’d of asked the people at the janitorial supply place for their best wax. I’m not saying Armstrong’s product isn’t good, I’ve never used it. Just saying I’d put more faith in the stuff the commercial guys use. There are many brands. I use Buckeye Lucent. I strip and wax regularly. An acrylic wax may last longer, I’ve never tried it.
 
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Yes and perhaps causing an uneven application of the wax. More in the low spots less on the high spots.

Also I’d of asked the people at the janitorial supply place for their best wax. I’m not saying Armstrong’s product isn’t good, I’ve never used it. Just saying I’d put more faith in the stuff the commercial guys use. There are many brands. I use Buckeye Lucent. I strip and wax regularly. An acrylic wax may last longer, I’ve never tried it.
I'm not sure if lino manufacturers want you to use acrylic wax. I'd only use what theu say to use. If they say it's ok, then I'd want their upkeep and cleaning recommendations.
If the gloss isn't even, maybe it needs buffing?
 
I don’t know much about it but Armstrong Shinekeeper is an acrylic. They say no buffing. I dunno, never tried it.

Buckeye Lucent or other similar commercial grade products are urethane fortified acrylics. They’re commercial grade and you can buff and burnish if you want to. I’m not a chemist but I believe it to be superior to Armstrong’s stuff. Or any stuff sold at the box stores.
 
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Thanks for all of the replies! Very helpful and I appreciate the time and expertise. Per comments above, the uneven finish was largely due to an uneven floor and uneven adhesion of the new finish to the many nooks and crannies of the old linoleum. I ended up light-sanding the finish to achieve and even surface and than applied--at the recommendation of the Armstrong help line--a coat of non-gloss satin finish to create a more balanced look. I'm satisfied with the result. Next time, however, I'll likely go with linoleum-specific products and linoleum-specific floor care (as recommended above). Thanks again for the input.
 
Good decision. I've seen many a floor that looked great... Until it was waxed... High gloss certainly brings out any and all imperfections. But when everything is done right it sure is purdy...:)
 

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